LPEA election heats up

Board of Director candidates weigh in on views, issues
by Missy Votel

Voters, sharpen your No. 2 pencils. Ballots for the annual La Plata Electric Association Board of Directors election hit mailboxes this week, and the typically snoozy election has turned into a veritable barn burner.

This year, nine candidates, including four incumbents, are vying for four seats on the Board, one in each of the co-op’s four districts. In accordance with LPEA bylaws, one of three seats in each district must come up for election each year. The Board is made up of 12 people, three from each district.

The spike in interest in this year’s election mirrors the spike in interest of cleaner, more sustainable and renewable energy sources. “With challenges in the energy industry looming large, interest in securing a ‘seat at the table’ when LPEA determines current and future policy has stimulated a solid field of candidates,” summed up a press release issued from the electric co-op.

“We are now facing rising costs for the production of electricity, be it traditional generation or renewable, and we will need to be thoughtful and conscientious as we explore our options going forward,” said LPEA CEO Greg Munro in the release. “This election is very important. We encourage all LPEA members to get to know the candidates and vote.”

A breakdown follows (Note: we have not inlcuded District 1 - Archuleta County, for space reasons and because, for the most part, it is outside our readership.)

District 2 -  Ignacio and south/western La Plata County
- Jerry McCaw (incumbent) - A Durango native, McCaw holds a Bachelor’s in civil engineering and is a former engineer with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The Ignacio-area rancher is the current president of the LPEA Board and is a former member of the Basin Co-op Board of Directors, Ignacio School Board and La Plata and Colorado Cattlemen’s Association.

McCaw supports advocating for members with Tri-State to help ensure reasonable rates and reliable electricity, all while being environmentally responsible. He believes there is “more to running an electric cooperative than just exploring renewable energy” and if re-elected, will continue to “vigilantly pursue what is fiscally, socially and environmentally optimum for our cooperative.”

- Bruce Baizel - Baizel and his family run a ranch on the west side of La Plata County where they generate one-third of their electricity via a wind turbine and solar panels. Also a lawyer, Baizel works on a national level on energy policy, including natural gas, coal and renewable energy. This past summer, Baizel spent a week visiting Germany and Austria studying renewable energy practices.

Baizel supports keeping rates low by diversifying to include more energy that is locally produced, especially from renewable sources. This commitment will not only keep more money in Southwest Colorado, he believes, but will also help support local jobs. “LPEA faces challenging times, with the cost of coal-fired electricity rising and the old way of doing business no longer serving us well,” he says.

District 3 - City of Durango

- Robert (Bobby) Lieb Jr. (incumbent) - Born in Newport Beach, Calif., Lieb grew up in Durango, working for the family business, Durango Threadworks. He has Bachelor’s in international marketing from Arizona State University. In addition to serving as an LPEA director, he also is a La Plata County commissioner. He has worked with the Airport Business Park, the Durango Industrial Development Foundation (DIDF) and as executive director of the Durango Chamber of Commerce.

Lieb supports advocating on members’ behalf to keep rates as low as possible through a combination of sound renewable and distributive energy policy; a continuation of conservation and efficiency programs; improved products and services; and long-term power source contracts. He sees LPEA as a leader among rural electric coops for its promotion of green energy and communication with its members.  

- Britt Bassett - Bassett is a Colorado native raised in Bayfield. He has a Master’s in nuclear engineering from the University of Arizona and has worked at Los Alamos Laboratories in New Mexico, the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. He is a partner in Solar Seminars Inc., a Durango business that provides design and construction management for commercial photovoltaic systems.

Bassett supports incorporating more renewables into LPEA’s energy mix while using “creative, forward thinking” to face the challenge of keeping rates low. Bassett believes he has the experience and technical background to help LPEA craft policies that will encourage local renewable energy development to meet the community’s goals. He thinks energy generation and distribution in the 21st century will open up opportunities for local economic development, particularly for rural landowners.

District 4 - North/east La Plata County, including Bayfield
-?Herb Brodsky (incumbent) - Brodsky, a business consultant, has lived in Southwest Colorado since 1980. He has worked for Simon & Associates, the largest shopping center development company in the U.S.; Carborundum Company; Rockwell Standard Corp.; and Chrysler. He is a three-term president of the LPEA Board and has been active with Community Foundation of SW Colorado, Durango Natural Foods, La Plata County Community Development Corp., and Durango Repertory Theatre. He has a Bachelor’s in mechanical engineering from Purdue and a Masters in automotive engineering from The Chrysler Institute.

Brodsky supports considering the needs and wishes of all LPEA members when making complex decisions and states that he is not “a single-issue candidate.” He believes he adds a “progressive voice” to the Board of Directors.”

-?Heather Erb - Erb has lived in La Plata County for 13 years and has a Bachelor’s from Massachusetts’ Clark University. A Realtor, she has served as president of the Durango Area Association of Realtors and the MLS Corporation, CREN. She is a regional speaker on green building and the real estate market and was instrumental in getting the “Green Feature Initiative” into the MLS in Southwest Colorado, which adds a value for energy efficiency. She is among 15 U.S. citizens invited to participate in a recent E.U. study on renewable energy and its economic benefits.

Erb supports pursuing opportunities for economic development by keeping energy dollars local and creating local jobs. She believes that with the cost of renewables falling and coal costs climbing,  local projects should be encouraged rather than waiting for a crisis. This would also ensure local control and rate stability, she says. “I am not afraid to think outside the box.”
-?Ann McCoy Harold - Harold is a lifelong Bayfielder and former owner and editor of the Pine River Times. A member of CLUB 20 since 1990, she was elected to its board for several terms. She now sits on the Board of Directors for the Durango Discovery Museum. She has had relatives involved in electrical utility work, including two cousins with long careers at LPEA.

Harold supports a strong LPEA that avoids “being drawn into fads.” She states that although there are more ways to produce electricity and many more rules governing the industry than ever, there is still just one way to deliver power – and it now has to be done with less money. As a Board member, she vows to “respect” and “protect” the community’s investment in LPEA.

Ballots are pre-addressed and postage paid and must be returned by 4 p.m., Fri., May 11, to FredrickZink & Associates. The independent Durango CPA firm has been retained by LPEA to tally the ballots using the County’s counting equipment. The results will be announced at LPEA’s Annual Meeting at Sky Ute Casino on May 12.


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